Fri | Sep 21, 2018

The Gleaner Honour Awards | Rita Humphries-Lewin - A lifetime of success

Published:Thursday | January 26, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Rita Humphries-Lewin
Rita Humphries-Lewin
Rita Humphries-Lewin

Rita Humphries-Lewin's entry into stockbroking in Jamaica and her subsequent establishment of Barita Investments Limited in 1977 is well known. What she does not talk about often are some of the hurdles she had to overcome on her way to becoming a titan among Jamaica's business class.

The 80-year-old shared some of that experience in an interview recently inside her New Kingston office, basking in her latest recognition - the 2016 Gleaner Honour Award Business Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to Jamaica's financial industry.

"At the beginning (of my career, working with) Annett & Company, I was very bold. The guys would not go and do the courses and there was a requirement from the head office that they must have people being trained in Canada for the companies.

"They (men) thought it infra dig for them to go back to school. I asked my boss if I could take up the offer and he said 'yes'. When I came back, I was a broker and trader in the market when the Jamaica Stock Exchange was formed. That's when I saw the nuances of the men against women," she said.

But Humphries-Lewin said her plans would not be derailed. "It never bothered me."

All that took place between 1962 and 1972, during which time Annett & Company closed down and, for a period, she held the chairmanship of the Jamaica Stock Exchange.

What she did after that was to help small businesses, but according to her, "they couldn't pay me and I had to live".

"That was when my company (Barita) started. I also realised I was not really ready for government operations because it's just too slow and, in my life before, when I was a secretary, I never worked with government.

"The guys that I used to work with at Annett had all gone to the insurance companies. A few of them got together and asked me to come back to the business and help them," she said.

"That was like another godsend and here I am. That is the history of it."


History shaped with tears


That history was not shaped without some tears, too, she pointed out. "I was going home one evening and I said to myself, 'My goodness, I have a lot of assets.' But I had no money, had no cash. Tears came to my eyes and that's what brought me right in here."

The fact that Barita, the first stockbroking company in Jamaica, has never made a loss in its almost 40-year history is a proud achievement for the woman who was honoured in 2000 by the Jamaican Government with an Order of Distinction (Commander) for her contribution to the finance industry.

"I'm proud of it because I have told every staff member in here that the clients' money is not theirs to play with."

To add to her list of coveted awards, Humphries-Lewin is the recipient of the 2016 Gleaner Honour Award Business Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 2015, Humphries-Lewin told The Gleaner that retirement was "boring". Nothing has changed. "Why would I want to retire? What would I do? I need an occupation. That's why so many people get ill when they retire. I need my brain to be working, and then, I don't like housework!"